01 August 2020 22:33
James Murdoch's resignation from the board of News Corp confirms divisive splits in the publishing arm of his family's media empire and removes a powerful dissenting voice against the rightwing slant of the group, according to insiders. The move marks the full departure of Rupert Murdoch's youngest son from News Corp and it is likely to boost the influence of his brother, Lachlan, who is seen as being far more sympathetic to rightwing causes. "My resignation is due to disagreements over certain editorial content published by the company's news outlets and certain other strategic decisions," James said in his resignation letter. In a statement, Rupert, chairman of Fox and News Corp's executive chairman, and Lachlan, chief executive and executive chairman of Fox and co-chairman of News Corp's board, expressed gratitude for James' "many years of service to the company. James Murdoch has had little to do with News Corp's publishing arm since 2013, when it was split off from what were then profitable family-owned TV and film holdings.
Earlier this year, James issued a rebuke of his family's media empire and its promotion of climate-change skeptics during Australia's bushfire inferno, which devastated thousands of square miles and killed or displaced as many as 3bn animals. "Kathryn and James' views on climate are well established and their frustration with some of the News Corp and Fox coverage of the topic is also well known," a spokesperson for the couple said at the time. After condemning comments made by Donald Trump following a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, James pledged a $1m donation to the Anti-Defamation League. The divisions apparent within the Murdoch family have also presented themselves within News Corp's operations as America has grappled with the scandals of the Trump presidency, the coronavirus pandemic and the social upheavals of the #MeToo era and Black Lives Matter protests. Last month, 280 members of staff at Dow Jones, the Murdoch company that publishes the Wall Street Journal, sent a letter to the paper's new publisher, calling for a clearer differentiation between news and opinion content online and citing concerns over the accuracy and transparency of the paper's notoriously reactionary editorial content.
Lachlan Murdoch, 48, also serves as chief executive and executive chairman of the company's other media company, Fox Corp., which includes the Fox News Channel. We wish him the very best in his future endeavors," Rupert Murdoch and Lachlan Murdoch said Friday in a joint statement. In recent years, James Murdoch has had something of a strained relationship with his father and brother, although family members play down notions of a spat. While he was CEO of Fox, James Murdoch was instrumental in forcing out Fox News Channel's longtime chairman Roger Ailes amid a widening sexual harassment scandal. At a media conference last year, James Murdoch acknowledged that he doesn't watch Fox News.
In January this year Mr Murdoch took direct issue with how the company had covered climate change and its impact on the bushfires in Australia. A spokesperson for Mr Murdoch and his wife Kathryn told The Daily Beast at the time: "Kathryn and James' views on climate change are well established and their frustration with some of News Corp and Fox's coverage of the topic is also well known. Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation covers media outlets across the globe including The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times – as well as Harper Collins Publishers in the UK. Outside of News Corporation, the 89-year-old media mogul also owns 20th Century Fox and the Fox network, including Fox News. James Murdoch's resignation from News Corporation is the latest example of the political divide in the famed media family. The youngest son of News Corporation founder Rupert Murdoch resigned from the company's board of directors on Friday, citing "disagreements over certain editorial content" published by the media empire's news outlets. While the nature of the disagreements and the news outlets in question were not disclosed, the resignation follows a number of similar moves in recent years. James Murdoch, right, has different political beliefs to his older brother Lachlan and father Rupert (John Stillwell/PA) Mr Murdoch was thrust into the public limelight in 2011 when the then-Sky chairman fronted a Commons Culture Media and Sport Committee alongside his father over the News of the World phone hacking scandal. James Murdoch, who currently heads private investment firm Lupa Systems, is known as the more liberal member of the Murdoch family, while his more conservative older brother Lachlan is the heir apparent to the media empire. Lachlan Murdoch is also the chief executive of Fox Corporation, the home of conservative US news network Fox News. An appearance by James and his father before the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee made headlines amid the News of the World phone-hacking scandal. His opposition to the direction of News Corporation's coverage came to a head in January, when he took direct issue with how the company had covered climate change and its impact on the bushfires in Australia. A spokesperson for Mr Murdoch and his wife Kathryn told The Daily Beast: "Kathryn and James' views on climate change are well established and their frustration with some of News Corp and Fox's coverage of the topic is also well known. James Murdoch, the youngest son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, severed his last corporate link to the family business on Friday, resigning from the board of directors of News Corp. due to "disagreements over certain editorial content" and "certain other strategic decisions." He had already left Fox Corp., the television and entertainment side of the family business, where he served as chief executive—a position his older brother Lachlan now holds. According to CNN's Brian Stelter, James Murdoch's break from the family's publishing arm—which includes papers such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post—was "not the result of any abrupt action within New York" but rather something that had been months in the making for the billionaire's son, who has semi-publicly clashed with his family's conservative political views and media coverage. In January, as the family's Australian media outlets published content questioning the scientific basis of climate change during the country's worst wildfire season in decades, Murdoch and his wife released a statement describing themselves as "particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence to the contrary." (Some Fox News hosts blamed the wildfires on rogue arsonists.) The statement was seen as an "extraordinary public rebuke." James and his wife, who have been critical of the Trump administration, have donated to the presidential campaigns of mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, and most recently, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. James was "testing the proposition of making change from the inside" by serving on the News Corp.